The taking of Cloudy McGee

By W. C. Tuttle

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Title: The taking of Cloudy McGee

Author: W. C. Tuttle

Release date: March 4, 2024 [eBook #73091]

Language: English

Original publication: Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co, 1926

Credits: Roger Frank and Sue Clark


                       The Taking of Cloudy McGee


                       The Taking of Cloudy McGee

                            by W. C. Tuttle
         Author of “On the Prod,” “The Sundown Prodigal,” etc.

It was easy to see that fate had been kind to Ferdinand P. Putney,
because he was not in jail. In fact, he never had been in jail. But he
was comparatively a young man yet. He was six feet three inches tall,
would weigh about a hundred and forty, and wore a size eleven shoe.

His face was very long, his eyes pouched, rather inclined to redness,
which gave him the mien of a very old and very wise bloodhound. His
almost yellow hair grew without much opposition from the barber, and he
wore a derby hat of a decided green tinge.

Ferdinand P. Putney was the lawyer of Lost Hills town. The folks of Lost
Hills were not given to carrying their troubles to the law; so one
lawyer was enough. Ferdinand had been many things in his forty years of
life, but that has nothing to do with the fact that he had studied
law--a little.

And there was another rather prominent man in Lost Hills, whose name was
Amos K. Weed. Amos was the cashier of the Lost Hills bank, mate of his
own soul, (Ferdinand P. Putney was the captain) and a bottle-drinker
after working hours.

Amos was a scrawny individual, five feet six inches tall, with a high,
wide forehead, pinched nose, beady eyes and long, slender fingers. His
shoulders were slightly stooped and he shuffled when he walked. Amos’
life consisted mostly of looking up and down a column of figures.

But for many years Amos had dreamed of being a great criminal, a master
mind; of smashing through things like a Springfield bullet. But his .22
caliber soul had held him back. Amos usually figured out a perfect
crime, dreamed that he was about to be hung, and discarded the plan.

On this certain day Amos closed the bank at a few minutes after three
o’clock. He carried his hat in his hand, and his breathing was slightly
irregular. He fairly slunk away from the bank, shuffling his feet
softly, as though afraid his departure might be heard.

He covered the half-block to Ferdinand P. Putney’s office in record
time, and found the lawyer at his desk, tilted back in a chair, his big
feet atop a pile of dusty books on the desk. Amos slammed the door
behind him and stood there, panting heavily. Ferdinand shifted his gaze
from the book, which he had been reading, and looked reprovingly upon

“Well?” queried Ferdinand softly.

“Well!” squeaked Amos. It is likely he intended to thunder, but Amos’
vocal cords were all of the E-string variety. He came closer to the
lawyer, his Adam’s-apple doing a series of convulsive leaps, as though
trying to break its bounds.

Ferdinand closed the book and waited expectantly for Amos to go further
in his conversation, which he did as soon as he had calmed his jerking

“Putney!” he squeaked. “We’re ruined!”

Ferdinand Putney slowly lowered his big feet, placed the book on the
table and stood up.

“This?” he said huskily, “is terrible. Just how are we ruined, Amos?”

“They--they didn’t strike oil!”

“Oh!” Ferdinand stared at Amos.

“You mean--_you_ didn’t strike oil?”

“Us! You got me into it, Putney! You know darn well you did. You advised
me to soak every cent I could get my hands onto in that Panhandle oil
field. You did! You did! You did! You----”

Ferdinand got into the spirit of the chant and began beating time on the

“And so you did, eh?” said Ferdinand. “How much, Amos?”

“Fuf--forty thousand dollars!”

“I didn’t know you had that much.”

“I--I didn’t!” Amos’ voice went so high it almost failed to register.
Then he whispered, running back down the scale. “It was the bank money.”

“Mm-m-m-hah,” Ferdinand nodded slowly, wisely. “I’m going to have a hell
of a time keeping you out of jail, Amos.”

“You’re as guilty as I am,” shrilled Amos.

Ferdinand shook his head. “No lawyer was ever put in jail for giving
wrong advice, Amos. But I’ll do my best to defend you as soon as they
put you in jail.”

“You--you wanted your cut out of it,” choked Amos. “That was the
agreement. You hinted that I might take a few dollars from the bank. I
bought a third interest in a well, and they never struck oil. I’ll tell
’em--the law--that you helped me; that you advised me to steal from the
bank; that you--you----”

“If you keep on talking that way, Amos, I won’t defend you.”

“Defend me? You talk like I was already arrested.”

“It probably won’t be long, Amos. Are you sure they’ll miss it?”

“Miss it? There’s only ten thousand in the bank right now, and the bank
examiner is due almost any day.”

“‘We are lost, the captain shouted, as he staggered down the stairs,’”
quoted Ferdinand. “That’s worse than I anticipated, Amos. You have
practically looted the organization, and the Lost Hills depositors are
not the kind that----”

“I know that all by heart!” wailed Amos. “They’ll hang me.”

“But there is still ten thousand dollars in the bank,” mused Ferdinand.
“Does Jim Eyton suspect you?”

Eyton was the president of the bank, a big, bluff sort of a person, who
trusted Amos implicitly.

“Not yet,” moaned Amos.

“Hm-m-m-m,” said Ferdinand judiciously. He rested his head on one hand,
thinking deeply.

And as he racked his brain for a solution out of the difficulty, a man
came down the wooden sidewalk, bareheaded, his sleeves rolled to his
elbow. It was Miles Rooney, the editor of the Lost Hills _Clarion_, a
weekly effort, seven-eighths syndicate matter and one-eighth sarcastic

He was a living example of the fact that the Lost Hills _Clarion_ was
not a paying proposition. His sparse hair stood straight up in the
breeze and in one bony hand he clutched a piece of paper.

“What am I going to do?” he demanded, handing the paper to Ferdinand. “I
ask you, Putney.”

Putney read the paper slowly. It said:

    Editor of Clarion: I ben redin what you sed about me and i
    want you to no your a lier and it aint so ive all way had a
    firs clas repitashun amung men and i aint no menis to no
    budy and nothin like it and im goin to maik you wish you
    keep your damn nose out of my bisnes.

                                     y’rs respy   Cloudy McGee.

Putney placed the paper on his desk and squinted at the editor.

“You wrote an editorial on Cloudy McGee, eh?”


“Do you know him, Mr. Rooney?”

“I do not,” Mr. Rooney flapped his arms dismally. “I don’t need to know
a man of his reputation in order to flay him in print, Mr. Putney.”

“He’s a bad egg,” put in Amos.

“Bad?” Putney lifted his brows. “He’d just as soon kill you as to look
at you. If I was running a newspaper, I’d either say nice things about a
killer, or I’d say nothing.”

“What satisfaction is your opinion to me?” demanded the harassed editor.
“How can we stop him from coming here?”

“We?” Putney shook his head. “He has nothing against me. I have never
seen the man in my life. This is a case for the sheriff--not an

“Sheriff!” The editor spat angrily. “He and I do not speak. I wrote an
editorial about the inefficiency of our sheriff’s office, and----”

“Now he won’t help you save your life, eh?”

“It amounts to that, Mr. Putney.”

“You might apologize to Cloudy McGee, Mr. Rooney.”

“I might!” snapped Mr. Rooney. “But when Cloudy McGee meets me, will he
wait long enough to let me do it? The man has a terrible reputation.
Why, there’s a thousand dollars reward for him. Will a man of his type
be satisfied with an apology?”

“It would establish a precedent,” murmured Putney. “Still, there is only
one thing for you to do and that is to wait and see. McGee is a bank
robber, I believe.”


“According to that letter, he will be here soon. If I were in your
place, I would shut up shop and go away for a vacation.”

“Couldn’t we get out a restraining order, Mr. Putney?”

“Yes, we could do that. But it is not likely that the sheriff would
serve it. Would you know Cloudy McGee if you saw him?”

“Not at all. No one in Lost Hills has ever seen him.”

“McGee is a gambler,” remarked Amos Weed, who remembered seeing a
general description of McGee on a reward notice. “They say he’ll bet on
anything. You might make him a gambling proposition, Rooney.”

“Bet him that he can’t hit me three times out of four eh?” retorted
Rooney, as he picked up his letter and went away. Putney knitted his
brows, as in deep thought, while Amos Weed gnawed a finger-nail.
Suddenly the lawyer got an inspiration. He leaned across the desk so
suddenly that Amos almost bit his entire nail off.

“Watch for McGee!” snapped Putney. “You’re in a bad fix, Amos. You might
as well die for a goat as a lamb. You say there is ten thousand dollars
left in the bank--in cash. All right. What do I get for my scheme?”

“For your scheme? Tell it to me, Putney.”

“On a fifty-fifty basis, Amos. If you win, I get half.”

“And if I lose?”

“You’ve already lost, you poor egg.”

“All right,” eagerly. “Fifty-fifty, Putney.”

“That’s a bet, Amos. How soon will the bank examiner come?”

“I don’t know. He’s due any old time.”

“All right. Cloudy McGee is also coming--to kill Miles Rooney. You see
McGee before he kills Rooney. Not that we care what he does to Rooney,
you understand; but he must postpone it.

“McGee is our meat. Watch for him, Amos. And as soon as you see him,
bring him to me. But do this secretly. If there’s any killing going
on--remember I’m a lawyer, not a target.”

“I’m no target either,” declared Amos. “I don’t know Cloudy McGee, but
I’ll do my best. You’ve got to get me out of this. I took your advice
once--and lost.”

“This is a cinch,” assured Putney. “Just let me get at McGee.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

Twenty miles south of Lost Hills was the town of Salt Wells, from which
place a stage line ran to Lost Hills. In a dingy little room at Salt
Wells’ only hotel, two men sat at a table playing poker. It was early in
the evening, and both men were too interested in the game to light a

One man was tall and lean, with deep-set eyes and a long, damp-looking
nose. He breathed through his mouth, and regularly he wiped a long,
gnarled finger across his nose, in lieu of a handkerchief.

The other man was also fairly tall, but not so thin. His face was also
tanned, but his fingers were more nimble with the cards. He seemed
greatly amused over his good luck. On the table between them was a
cartridge-belt and holstered Colt six-shooter, and a scattering of

The man with the bothersome nose spread his hand, his watery eyes
triumphant. But the other man spread his hand, and without a word he
picked up the belt, gun and money.

“Anything else?” asked the winner.

“Nobe,” The other man got heavily to his feet. “I’be cleaged.”

“All right, pardner. It was a good game eh?”

“Good gabe for you.”

The winner smiled and left the room, a huge sombrero, with an ornate
silver band, tilted rakishly over one eye. The loser looked gloomily
after him, flirting a forefinger across his nose. He dug in a pocket and
took out several little bottles and boxes, which he studied closely.
Each and every one was a guaranteed cure for colds.

He selected a tablet from each receptacle, put them in his big mouth and
took a big drink from a broken-handle pitcher. Then he put on a derby
hat, yanked it down around his ears, and went heavily down the hall and
into the street.

For several moments he stood on the wooden sidewalk, looking up and down
the street, before crossing to the Road Runner saloon, where he leaned
against the bar. The sleepy-eyed bartender shuffled around behind the
bar and waited for the order.

“Rog and rye,” thickly.

The bartender placed the bottle and glasses on the bar and watched the
man toss off a full glass of the sweet whisky.

“Yo’re the only man I ever seen that drank rock and rye all the time,”
observed the bartender. “Got a cold?”

“I hab. It’s killid be by idches--dab id!”

He sneezed violently, clinging to the bar with both hands. When he
looked up there was a great fear in his eyes.

“Why don’tcha take somethin’ for it?” asked the bartender.

“Take sobedig? I’ve tried id all.” He shivered, and poured out another

“Had it long?”

“Nod this wod. Sobe day I’ll ged pneumodia and die--dab id.”

“A feller don’t last long when he gets that,” declared the bartender
hollowly. The sufferer shook his head, shivered and sneezed.

“You ought to take care of yourself, pardner.”

“No use,” wearily. “I’be fought id all by life. It’ll ged be sobe
day--dab it.”

“It kinda takes the joy out of life, when yuh know darn well it’ll get
yuh in the end,” sympathized the bartender.

“Pneumodia is bad,” nodded the man tearfully. “Shuds off your wid.”

“Why don’tcha see a doctor?”



“Whad you don’t know won’t hurd yuh.” He poured out another drink of
sweet whisky, shuddered violently, ran a finger across his nose and
buttoned up his collar.

“How far is id to Lost Hills?”

“About twenty miles north of here.”

“Thang yuh.”

The man with the pneumonia complex went out into the night and
approached a hitch-rack, where several riding horse-were tied. After
looking them over he selected a tall sorrel. Loosening the cinch, he
removed the blanket, mounted and rode north, wearing the blanket around
his shoulders, holding it tightly around his throat. He sneezed several
limes, as though bidding Salt Wells good-by, and faded away in the

                   *       *       *       *       *

Amos Weed was not to be caught napping. There were not many strangers
ever seen in Lost Hills, but Amos spotted one that night. He was rather
tall, slender, but was not dressed conspicuously. Amos dogged him from
place to place, wondering if this could possibly be Cloudy McGee.

The stranger went from game to game in the War Path saloon, showing only
a mild interest in the gambling. He picked up a billiard cue and spent
an hour or so knocking the balls about the old pool table, paying no
attention to anyone, while Amos humped in a chair, watching him closely.

He followed the stranger to the Chinese restaurant and watched him. This
man wore no gun in sight. He seemed of a serious disposition, ate
heartily, which was something Amos had been unable to do since he had
heard of the well failure. He knew it must be a failure, when they did
not strike oil within the four thousand foot depth.

The stranger left the restaurant and sauntered around the street, with
Amos following him at a distance. Miles Rooney was getting out his
weekly edition, and several interested folks were watching the flat
printing press through the _Clarion_ window. The stranger stopped and
watched the operation.

Amos came in beside him, also watching the operation.

“Pretty slick, the way it prints ’em, eh?” said the cashier. The
stranger nodded.

“Stranger in Lost Hills?” asked Amos.

The man nodded quickly. “Just came in today.”

“Going to stay with us a while?”

“No, I don’t think so. At least, not long.”


“No-o-o-o. Bank examiner.”

“Oh.” Amos dropped the subject and got away as fast as possible. This
was terrible, he thought. If the bank examiner was in town, tomorrow his
theft would be discovered. Amos felt of the knot which was already
galling his left ear.

Then he galloped down to Putney’s house, almost fell in through the
front door, and blurted out the news.

“I tell you, we’re sunk, Putney!”

“You are, you mean,” indignantly.

“O-o-o-o-oh, hell!” wailed Amos. “I might as well blow out my brains, I

“Well,” said Putney judiciously, “it might save complications. Might be
safer to shoot the examiner.”

“But I can’t shoot straight, Put! You sure advised me into a lot of
misery. What’ll I do?”

“Give yourself up.”

“And get hung?”

“Start running.”

“Run where? I haven’t got enough money to make a getaway.”

“Well, you can shoot straight enough to kill yourself, can’t you?”

“Oh, you’re a hell of a lawyer! Didn’t you ever give any good advice to

“This ain’t a point of law, Amos--this is emergency.”

“Uh-huh. You sure are good in emergencies. Give up, run, or shoot
myself. Any damn fool could give that advice.”

“Then keep on looking for Cloudy McGee. That’s your last chance. He
might show up, you know.”

“Where there’s life there’s hope,” sighed Amos. “I’ll do it. In the
meantime, you think of something, Put.” Amos went back to the street,
hoping against hope.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Amos Weed was the first one to spot the stranger with the big hat and
the silver-studded hat-band. He remembered that the reward notice had
mentioned the fact that Cloudy McGee wore that kind of a hat. Amos was
both frightened and thrilled. He saw the stranger go into the War Path
saloon; so he went to the hitch-rack and looked at the stranger’s horse.

On the back of the saddle cantle was the single initial M, in a silver
letter. M must stand for McGee, reasoned Amos. He rather thrilled at the
thoughts of meeting a man like Cloudy McGee, who flaunted his big hat
and an initialed saddle before all the sheriffs, who would be only too
glad of a chance to gather him in and collect the thousand dollar

Amos sauntered back to the saloon door, and met the stranger, who was
just coming out. He glanced sharply at Amos and started across the
street, with Amos trotting at his heels. The man stopped and looked at
Amos. It was dark out there, and Amos’ knees smote together, but he
summoned up his remaining nerve.

“Mr. McGee, can I talk with you for a minute?” he said.

The tall stranger started slightly. “What about?”

“Business,” Amos swallowed heavily. “But not here in the street,” he
hastened to say. “Nobody knows who you are, except me. But you shouldn’t
wear that big hat, you know.” It pleased Amos to give advice to Cloudy

But McGee didn’t seem to mind. He waited for Amos Weed to continue.

“You follow me,” said Amos. “I want you to meet a friend of mine.”

“Just a moment,” said Cloudy McGee. “What’s the game?”

“The game,” said Amos nervously, “is to make some easy money for you.”

“Easy money, eh? Say, I don’t believe I know you.”

“I’m all right,” quavered Amos. “I’m cashier of the Lost Hills bank.”

“I see. All right.”

They went to the sidewalk and headed down the street to where Ferdinand
P. Putney kept bachelor hall in a little two-room building, just off the
street, on the south end of town.

It was a great thrill for Amos, to walk with Cloudy McGee, on whose head
was a thousand dollars reward. Cloudy stopped to light a cigarette, and
Amos shivered as the match illuminated McGee’s ornate sombrero. Amos was
afraid that Jim Potter, the sheriff, might see him.

A man was coming up the street toward them, but Amos did not know who it
was. The man watched Amos and Cloudy McGee go in the front door of
Ferdinand P. Putney’s home. Against the lamplight it was easy for this
man to see the huge sombrero.

The man sneezed several times, cleared his throat raspingly and walked
over toward Putney’s front door. It was the man who had stolen the horse
in Salt Wells. He had ridden almost to Lost Hills and turned the horse
loose, not wishing to be arrested for horse stealing.

Ferdinand P. Putney drew up three chairs, after shaking hands with
Cloudy McGee.

“I--we were looking for you, Mr. McGee,” said Putney. “Mr. Rooney, the
editor of the Lost Hills _Clarion_, said you were coming to--er--see him

Cloudy McGee nodded indifferently, and Amos mentally decided that the
killing of an editor was merely an incident in the life of such a man as
Cloudy McGee.

“You are a man of action,” said Putney, looking upon McGee with
considerable favor. “What would you do for a thousand dollars?”

McGee grinned. “All depends.”

“I’m going to lay my cards on the table,” said Putney. “A man of your
caliber appreciates honesty.”

“Such is my reputation,” nodded McGee.

“All right.” Putney stretched out his legs and squinted at Amos, who was
not at ease. “Our friend here, is cashier of the Lost Hills bank. Some
time ago he stumbled upon a flattering oil proposition.”

“Now, don’t lie about it, Put,” wailed Amos. “You advised me to put
every cent----”

“If you will pardon me, I will tell Mr. McGee the story, Amos.”

“Well, don’t leave yourself out, Putney.”

“As I said before, Mr. Weed saw the possibilities of this investment,
and, not having sufficient funds of his own, he took forty thousand of
the bank money, in order to take a third interest in the Panhandle
Number 7 well, a Texas oil company. It promised enormous returns. Today
he received a communication to the effect that at a depth of four
thousand feet, they have struck nothing. The average depth of that field
is much less.

“It puts my friend in a bad position. The depositors of this bank are
not of a forgiving nature, and in the event of an embezzlement it is
doubtful whether the law would ever have a chance to pronounce sentence
upon Amos Weed.”

“They’d lynch him, eh?” asked Cloudy McGee heartlessly.

Amos shivered.

“I am doing my best to save my friend’s life,” continued Putney. “The
forty thousand is gone. And the only way we can explain the loss is to
have the bank robbed. You know how to do things like that, Mr. McGee.
There is already a thousand dollar reward for your arrest; so another
robbery won’t make much difference to you one way or the other.”

“Well?” queried McGee thoughtfully. “How much do I get?”

Ferdinand P. Putney did some mental arithmetic. He knew there was ten
thousand dollars in the bank. It would be just as simple to make this a
fifty thousand dollar robbery as a forty thousand dollar robbery--and
there would be ten thousand to split between himself and Amos.

“Suppose,” he said, “that we give you a thousand dollars. You don’t need
to pull off a regular robbery; just come in the front door, fire a few
shots, run out the back door, get on your horse and beat it. As you go
through we’ll hand you the one thousand.”

McGee shook his head quickly. “You might hand me a package of nails.”

“Oh, I see. You think we might not hand you the money.”

“Be a fool if you did, Putney.”

Putney turned his head and considered Amos.

“Don’t look at me,” wailed Amos. “I’ve got no thousand.”

“I guess that’s no lie,” Putney turned again to McGee.

“How do I know you’d do the job?”

“You don’t. But you’ve got to take some risk.”

“How about you?”

“I take plenty, don’t you think? I’ve got to outrun the sheriff.”

“That’s true,” nodded Putney. He turned to Amos. “If I give Mr. McGee a
thousand dollars, you’ve got to make good with me, Amos.”

“I will,” whispered Amos. “All I want is to get out of this mess.”

Ferdinand P. Putney went into the next room. He did not trust the bank,
because he knew Amos Weed too well. In a few moments he came back,
carrying a thousand dollars in currency, which he counted out to Cloudy

“I’m banking on your honesty,” said Putney. McGee pocketed the bills.

“No one can ever say I was crooked in business,” he said. “When is this
deal to be pulled off?”

“Tomorrow morning at exactly ten o’clock. There hasn’t been a customer
in that bank at ten o’clock for months. Am I right, Amos?”

“You’re right,” whined Amos. “Nobody ever comes in that early.”

Cloudy McGee shook hands with them on the deal and left the house,
promising Amos Weed to keep his big sombrero out of sight.

“Well,” sighed Amos, “that’s settled. If the sheriff does kill Cloudy
McGee, he won’t squeal on us, Putney.”

“He better not,” grinned Putney. “But the deal ain’t all finished, Amos.
You go down to the bank and take out every cent of that ten thousand
dollars. Nobody is goin’ to wonder if you go in there this time of
night, because you often work late.”

“You--you mean I’m to swipe that money, Putney?”

“Sure thing. We split it two ways--I take six thousand and you take

“Aw-w-w-w-w, what kind of a split is that? We were to go fifty-fifty.”

“That’s all right. I get a commission for putting the deal over, don’t
I? That thousand I gave him, I gave for you. It was just a loan, Amos.
Take it or leave it.”

“Aw, I’ll take it, Putney. I hope he don’t fall down on the job.”

“He’s a heaven-sent angel, Amos. Now, you go and get that money and
bring it up here.”

Amos went, but he went reluctantly. As he left the house he did not know
he was being followed by the wet-nosed stranger, who had listened, with
an ear glued to one of Putney’s window panes.

It was not difficult for Amos to enter the bank and come out with the
money. At that time of night there were very few people on the streets
of Lost Hills. He had the money in a gunnysack and carried it concealed
as much as possible with his coat.

He came down the sidewalk, past the doorway of an old shack, when a big
man pounced upon him, forcibly took the sack away from him, and sent him
spinning with a punch on the jaw. Amos saw stars that the Lick
Observatory had never dreamed of seeing, and when he awoke he was all
alone and very sad.

Conscious of the fact that he had been robbed and knocked out, he
staggered to Putney’s place, fell inside the house and gasped out his
story. Putney’s consternation and wrath knew no bounds.

He fairly danced in his anger, while little Amos held his jaw and stared
red-eyed at the wall.

“Cloudy McGee double-crossed us!” swore Putney. “He knew we’d do this,
the dirty pup. Well,” Putney waved his arms in desperation, “we’ll have
to kill McGee and get that money.”

“You do it,” said Amos wearily. “You can have my part of it. My Lord,
that man is strong!”

“But don’t you see where it puts us?” wailed Putney. “He’s got all the
money--eleven thousand. He don’t have to rob the bank now.”

“But he swore he’d do it, Putney,” Amos grasped at any old straw. “He
didn’t promise not to rob us.”

“Well, if you can get any satisfaction out of that,” said Putney.
“Anyway, it leaves me holding the sack. I’ve got nothing to gain, even
if he keeps his word. I’m out a thousand. All it’ll do is to save your

“Well, isn’t that enough, Putney?”

“I wouldn’t give a thousand dollars for you, guts, feathers and all.
I’ve sure bought something--I have.”

“Aw-w-w-w, it may turn out all right, Putney. Look at the jaw I’ve got
on me, will you?”

“I don’t care anything about your jaw Go on home. When he robs that
bank. I’m going to--” Putney hesitated.

“What are you going to do?”

“That’s my business. Now go home.” Amos went. And as he hurried home he
noticed a light in the living-room of the sheriff’s home.

Perhaps at any other time Amos would not have given this a thought, but
just now his nerves were in such a state that everything looked

The big stranger with the damp nose had engaged a room at a little
hotel, left his bundle there and gone to the War Path saloon, where he
got into a poker game. In a little while Cloudy McGee came in, bought a
drink and tackled the roulette wheel.

Several times the damp-nosed stranger glanced at Cloudy and found him
looking. The first time they nodded, but the other glances were of
suspicion instead of friendship.

“You’ve got a bad cold, stranger,” observed the dealer.

“Yea-a-ah--dab id.”

“You ought to take something for it.”

“I hab,” the stranger swallowed heavily.

“’F I was you I’d see a doctor,” declared one of the players. “I had a
friend that died from pneumonia. Started just like your cold.”

“I thig I’ll see a doctor in the mornig--dab id.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

Amos Weed slept little that night, and he got up in the morning with his
nerves all frazzled out. He did not eat any breakfast. He had heard of
condemned criminals eating a hearty breakfast just before their walk to
the gallows, and the very thought of food sickened him.

As he walked toward the bank he met the damp-nosed stranger, with the
derby hat crushed down over his head. He sneezed just before they met,
and Amos jerked as though someone had fired a gun.

“I’m lookig for the doctor,” said the big man thickly.

Amos sighed visibly and audibly, as he pointed out the doctor’s

“Thag yuh,” nodded the sufferer, and went on. Amos looked after him,
wondering who he was, and then went on to the bank. It was about ten
minutes of ten, when Amos opened the doors and went in, closing them
behind him. The bank did not open until ten o’clock.

Amos looked out the front windows, his heart pounding against his ribs.
It was within ten minutes of the time that would see him saved or sunk.
He went to the rear door, throwing back the heavy bolts, which would
give Cloudy McGee a chance to make his getaway, if he were still going
to carry out his plan.

A glance showed that McGee’s horse was behind the bank. Amos Weed’s
hopes arose like a well-filled balloon. At least Cloudy McGee was
shooting square. Then he saw Ferdinand P. Putney coming down the alley
behind the street, carrying a double-barrel shotgun. Amos closed the
door, peeking through a crack, watching Putney, who came in behind the

He looked all around. A huge packing case and several smaller boxes gave
him a hiding place, into which he crawled. Amos drew away from the door,
his eyes squinting painfully. It was evident to him that Ferdinand P.
intended to intercept Cloudy McGee and try to get back his money.

And Amos realized that Putney was going to ruin the whole scheme. If
Cloudy was forced to stop and argue the case with Putney, it would give
the sheriff time to catch him, and then there would be no chance to
prove that McGee had stolen the fifty thousand.

Someone was knocking on the front door! Amos trotted to the front. It
was the depot agent. He showed Amos a telegraph envelope through the
glass of the door.

Amos went to the door, shaking like a Hula dancer, and got the message.
It was for him. He jigged back to the rear door and looked out. Then he
almost swooned. Seated on the boxes, where Ferdinand P. Putney was
concealed, was the sheriff, Big Jim Potter, smoking his pipe.

Amos staggered back to the front door. Seated on the sidewalk across the
street was “Slim” Caldwell, the deputy sheriff, watching the bank front.
Amos reeled. The clock was striking the hour, and at every chime Amos
Weed jerked inside his clothes.

Then he unlocked the door and went drunkenly toward his desk, where he
slumped in a chair, staring with unseeing eyes. The door opened and a
man came toward him. He opened his eyes. It was the man he had directed
to the doctor’s office. Amos shook his head wearily. Nothing mattered
now. He was still holding the telegram, and now he opened it
mechanically, his eyes scanning it quickly. It read:


                                     GRIMES SUPERINTENDENT.

Amos fell back in his chair, the world reeling around him. He opened his
eyes. The stranger with the cold had crouched back against the wall, a
gun in his hand, as Cloudy McGee came in through the doorway. Slim
Caldwell, the deputy sheriff, was running across the street, almost to
the door, when the stranger behind it flung up his gun, covering McGee.

“Put ’em up, McGee!” he snapped, and McGee’s hands went up, a look of
wonder on his face.

Slim Caldwell ran in behind him, and the gun covered both of them.

“Who are you?” asked the damp-nosed stranger of Caldwell.

“Deputy sheriff,” blurted Caldwell.

“All right. Handcuff that man.”

“But--but--” stammered the deputy.

The sheriff was coming in the back door, herding Ferdinand P. Putney
ahead of him. He stared at the tableau. The damp-nosed stranger swung
his back against the wall, half-facing the sheriff. For several moments
things were rather deadlocked.

“Who are you?” asked the stranger with the cold.

“I’m the sheriff!” snapped Jim Potter.

“And I’ve got you, Cloudy McGee!” snorted Caldwell addressing the
damp-nosed stranger, and covering him. “Drop that gun!”

The man addressed dropped his gun and Caldwell picked it up, but before
anyone could stop him, the damp-nosed man had made a sudden dive and
knocked the original McGee off his feet, and was sitting on him.

“For heck’s sake, what’s this all about?” demanded the sheriff, coming
toward them, still clinging to Ferdinand P. Putney.

“Pud ha’d-cuffs on him, I tell you!” snapped the damp-nosed man. “This
is Cloudy McGee.”

“Yo’re crazy!” roared the sheriff. “Yo’re McGee yourself.”

“You thig so?” The damp-nosed man turned back the lapel of his soiled
vest and showed them the badge of a deputy U. S. marshal. “By nabe is
Morton,” he said thickly. “I hobe you’re sadisfied.”

“U. S. marshal?” blurted the sheriff.

“Yeah. I be been looking for Cloudy McGee, bud I didn’t hab much of a
describtion, excebt that he gambles quite a lot and is about my size. I
heard he was in Salt Wells, or aroud that part of the country.

“I med this sud-of-a-gud and he wod my horse, saddle, hat and my gud. I
thought he’d stay there bud he left; so I stole a horse and followed
him. I heard hib frame up to rob this bank. They called hib McGee. That
feller over there,” pointing at Amos, who was almost in a state of
collapse, “took ted thousad from the bank last night; so I toog it away
frob him. It’s ub in by roob.”

“Well, for the land’s sake!” blurted the man upon whom the deputy
marshal sat. “They mistook me for Cloudy McGee, and I let the sheriff in
on the deal. I thought you was McGee, because they recognized me by that
big hat which I won away from you at Salt Wells, and we framed it to get
Putney, Weed and you this morning.”

“Is thad so?” The marshal wiped his nose and stared down at the man
under him. “Who in hell are you?”

“Me? I’m the bank examiner.”

“Huh! Loogs like a mistage--dab id.”

The officer got to his feet, grinning widely.

Amos was coming toward them, holding out the telegram.

“I’ll deed it to the bank,” he quavered. “It’s a gusher, and they’re
worth more than fifty thousand dollars. Just so they don’t hang me, I’ll
agree to anything.”

The bank examiner shook his head. “That’s between you and the bank
officials, you cheap little crook.”

“Cheap?” muttered Ferdinand P. Putney. “That man must deal in big money,
if he calls a fifty-thousand steal cheap.”

The bank examiner took a roll of bills from his pocket and handed them
to the sheriff.

“Here’s the retaining fee I got from Putney last night. If you want to
prosecute him, that is evidence.”

“I dunno what I want to do,” said the sheriff blankly.

An apparition was coming in through the back door; a gobby-black sort of
a person, painted up like a war-path Indian in reds, greens, blues,
purples and black. They watched him come toward them.

“My Gawd!” blurted the sheriff. “It’s Miles Rooney!”

“It is,” wailed the editor. “Look at me! He tied me to my own press and
painted me with my own inks. I’ve been like this all night. I just got

“Who painted you?” whispered Amos.

Miles Rooney turned his ink smeared countenance upon the luckless
cashier, pointing a gobby finger at him accusingly.

“Your friend. The man I seen you standing outside my window with last
night. The man you were talking to, darn you! Cloudy McGee!”

“The bank examiner!” exploded Amos. “He--he said he was.”

“He is,” said the sheriff. “He’s examined a lot of ’em.”

The real bank examiner and the marshal walked outside, halting on the
edge of the sidewalk, where they grinned at each other.

“You ought to take something for that cold,” said the examiner. “The
first thing you know you’ll be having pneumonia.”

“Dod be.” The officer shook his head. “You can’t scare be do more. All
by life I’be been scared of pneumonia. Never had the nerve to visit a
doctor. Bud I seen one today. Ha, ha, ha, ha! Fuddy, ain’t id? I feel
twedy years you’ger.”

“What did he say was the matter with you?”

“Hay fever.”

[Transcriber’s Note: This story appeared in the February 10, 1926
issue of Short Stories Magazine.]



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